ST. PETERSBURG -- The subject of the frustration coming from the Orioles’ dugout was clear. The source of it was less so.
Hence the confusion that temporarily stalled the third inning of Baltimore’s 8-1 loss to the Rays on Wednesday, when home-plate umpire CB Bucknor eyed the Orioles’ bench with disciplinary intent. Bucknor had already rung up three Orioles by that point, and displeasure with his zone dissipated little by the time they returned to the field. Shortly after, it peaked. Bucknor lifted his mask and raised his right hand.
“I didn’t know what he was pointing at,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde would say later. “It looked like he was pointing at me.”
Sitting with hands in his pockets, Hyde looked incredulous. He thought Bucknor had run him, though much of the chirping came from behind the skipper. As Hyde emerged to protest, Tim Cossins waved his arms. “It was me!” the Orioles’ field coordinator yelled. “I said it.”
In the end, the scene stood as a near-mirror image from Monday, when Cossins took over after Hyde’s first career ejection. Cossins received his first this time. And when the dust settled, it illustrated the frustration present throughout Baltimore’s second straight defeat at Tropicana Field, in which starter David Hess surrendered six runs and the Orioles struck out 13 times.
Hyde stopped short of blaming the officiating for the offensive woes, instead applauding the Rays’ pitching staff, which ranks among the Majors’ best in a slew of statistical categories. On this night, Ryne Stanek and winner Yonny Chirinos (five shutout innings) led a quartet of Tampa Bay hurlers who combined to hold Baltimore to little more than a Rio Ruiz solo home run.
“This is really good stuff,” Hyde said. “You’ve got to bring your lunch pail.”
Similarly searching for answers was Hess, who believes he pinpointed a mechanical flaw after an outing he called “a learning experience” and “not acceptable.” Hess was on the wrong end of a borderline call by Bucknor that sparked the third-inning dustup, and, a few pitches later, he surrendered the last of a trio of homers he allowed over two-plus innings -- a solo shot from Yandy Diaz that had Hyde hopping from the dugout yet again. Ji-Man Choi had gone deep a batter earlier, and Brandon Lowe had cranked a three-run shot in the first.
They combined to make for another short night for Hess, the second-year righty whose uptick in fastball velocity has been a welcome surprise. Hess is throwing his four-seamer at 93.5 mph on average, per Statcast, nearly 2 mph harder than he did during his rookie year.
But that alone hasn’t been enough to immunize him from what’s become a team-wide bugaboo. Since blanking the Jays in dramatic fashion 2 1/2 weeks ago, Hess has allowed seven dingers and 13 earned runs over 12 2/3 innings.
“I have to be better than that,” Hess said. “I think it's the same stuff that I performed well with then, and I think it's the same stuff that'll get back on track soon. I think really it's just being able to utilize that stuff and making sure that everything's mechanically sound. When everything's lined up like that, we know how fun it can be out there, and when it's not, it shows that it can go the other way, as well."